In Talks With London: I knew Bloody Samaritan was going to be crazy when I first made the beat
29 Apr 2022
Meet London – the innovative Grammy Award-nominated Nigerian producer that is currently all over your personal playlists.
Born Michael Ovie Hunter, London, is unquestionably what many will describe as a ‘rare talent’. Since breaking through three years ago, the self-taught 22-year old has managed to notch up a couple of number one albums/singles, a Grammy nomination and his very own Apple Music ‘Behind The Boards’ Playlist. Did we mention that this has all been achieved in a window of 3 years!
Rema’s right hand man, London should be seen as one of the innovators behind our current wave of Afrobeats. Leading the charge of the genre’s evolution, London’s influence has indeed played a hand in its recent global success. When given such a compliment, London is adamant in remaining humble. “I honestly can’t take credit for that” he coyly explains. Modest in his demeanour, he surprisingly admits to feeling self conscious with his producing abilities, “Man, I wish I could play guitar. I wish I could play the keys and these type of things. Sometimes it makes me feel like, my work isn’t good enough.”
Signing his first publishing deal in a joint venture between Sony Music Publishing France and Bluesky Music Publishing, London is primed for even greater international presence this year. Recently Mixtape Madness got the chance to chop it up with the busy producer to discuss his music journey and latest project.
I know you have been hella busy.
Rema is about to start his tour. So we’ve just been like, you know, rehearsing with the live band. So I’ve pretty much been helping him with the whole composition for the music and everything. I’ve really been overworked so I just decided to take a rest today honestly, because I started feeling like really sick from yesterday, but pretty much that’s what we’ve been working on for now.
When it comes to live reworking of songs is that process is still similar to how you create a song in studio?
Um, it’s kind of similar, only that this time you have actual instrumentalists you can direct and tell them what to play. Other than, you know, when it’s just me and I’m just the one programming everything myself. Well, it’s kind of like pretty much the same thing but this time, I feel like it’s actually better and faster. Honestly because you have people who have like majors in music, and the original words just needs to be explained to them. Okay, I want this snares like this. I want the keys sounding like this pretty much.
Interesting, because I didn’t know producers themselves are actually involved with live shows.
Not a lot of producers are actually involved with the whole live session thing but it’s something I love doing. I used to play drums in church I’ve always been in the choir. I’ve always been around music. So you know, when he said he wanted to rehearse with a live band. I was like, yeah, sure I can help you compose music for them, I’m really used to it. I mean, I just see as me being in church again but this time like doing a different type of music.
I’m so happy you mentioned church because I wanted to ask you about the Fruity Loops story. Can you tell me more about that story?
So I pretty much used to work at this graphic designing firm because I got done with high school. I couldn’t get into like college and everything because in Nigeria you have to know someone that knows someone. So there’s a lot of back end things that goes on there. So my mom was like yeah, I should just get something doing so I started working at this graphic designing. There was this day when I was working on the office computer and I found fruity loops on it and I was like, what’s this? They were like, oh, this is what they used to like make sounds for trillers and I was like so you can use it to make beats? They were like yeah. So okay, cool we installed it on my laptop for me. and I went back home just trying to figure it out. Just like out of curiosity, pretty much and then you know, that’s how I started making beats and I never went back to the office again.
Your just 22 Right?
Already your Grammy nominated, you’ve worked with Wizkid, Tiwa, Rema. Your journey is incredible. When did you properly first start producing?
I started making beats in 2018. I had mentorship from one of the producers at Mavin Record records, his name is Baby Fresh. I reached out to him on Instagram, because I saw he was friends with my aunts when I was little. So I found out like he’s a producer at Mavin records. So I hit him up and I was like, yo it’s me, I started making beats recently and he was like that’s sick. So he would always send me songs to listen to, and say try and make something like this. I’d always try and figure it out then send it back to him. He would be like dope, can you try do it like this. I remember there was this particular bit that I sent to him. One day, he just called me and he was like, bro, you have a song with Reekado Banks and I was like, what do you mean? This was like, my first major placement. Normally I would just make beats and listen to them in my room, I never used to sell beats. I was so pumped out like, yo, that’s crazy. He was like, he needs me to finish it up so I went back home immediately. I was on my way to church, actually, for rehearsals but then I just turned back [laughs] and I went back home. I started working on the beat and sent it to him. Months past, like two months, three months had passed and I was getting worried. Is he not gonna drop the record anymore, like what’s happening? I hit up Baby Fresh, I was like yo, what’s happening with the record? He was like, oh, he forgot to tell me that they sent the song to Wizkid. Wizkid is now on the song. I was like, nah you’re playing with me. I was so confused, he sent me the song and I heard Wizkid’s voice and I was like, yo, this is so crazy. This is my first production and it has Reekado Banks and Wizkid on it. That was so crazy for me. After I moved to Lagos, I met up with Baby Fresh then Rema. We used to live together at that time and we just make music together. When I look back and see how we used to struggle and everything. Like it’s amazing, honestly to see everything like blowing up right now. Like it’s really crazy.
That’s what makes your story so interesting. Just seeing the amount of achievements you have made in a short time space.
Personally, I believe you’ve kind of shaped Rema’s sound. He used to get a bit of criticism, just with the way he’s kind of extended the soundscape for Afrobeats. I wanted to get your personal opinion on that considering that kind of criticism is on your sound as well.
When I making beats, I honestly wasn’t trying to be different. I was just making beats out of curiosity, like just trying to see if I do something like this – How’s it gonna sound? Let me try it and see. That’s the same thing with Rema like he got his sound from always trying different things, always experimenting on everything. Saying I kind of like shaped Rema sound, I honestly can’t take credit for that, because I feel like he had like full control over what he wanted to do. We both played a role in you know, shaping the sound. Honestly it was a mixture of both our ideas like he’ll bring an idea, oh, I want something like this. Then I have an idea and then we’ll just mix it up together. Honestly seeing all those comments, tweets and everything it didn’t really bother me at all. I just felt like not everyone is gonna get it at the end of the day. Everyone is not in your brain or everyone thinks like you. There are certain people who would understand it and there are certain people who wouldn’t understand it. So honestly, it really didn’t get to me when I see all those tweets like that. I just looked at them like, oh at least they are listening. That’s what matters.
I think that it was more a generation thing. I think our generation, we understood what you’re both doing with the sound while the older generation are sticking to the sound they grew up on.
You mentioned your relationship with Rema. I’ve always asked producers, do you think, the best music is produced when the producer and the artists have a special relationship?
Honestly, for me, I’ve always been friends with Rema right from the jump. So like, every time we create music, it’s never too serious. When we’re in the studio, it’s never serious. We just go based on vibe, like I could literally be playing some sound and he’s just vibing and I’m like see this guy [laughs]. That’s literally how it is. Take, for example, like Shizzy and Fireboy. That was the first time they met and they made Peru. So I wouldn’t really say you necessarily have to like have some sort of friendship with the producer or some sort of connection or whatsoever. I feel like you guys just have to programme your mind. I mentioned like you guys are trying to achieve the same goal. You know, once there is unity, you would win at the end of the day. Once you guys already think like the same things you will definitely create magic. So I feel like it’s more of a mind thing. You both want to achieve something like there’s no way you’re not going to make crazy stuff.
I love that track “Bounce“, I need to know what was in your head when you first started creating that song.
[Laughs] Oh, honestly for Bounce, Don Jazzy who’s the CEO of Mavin Records and also a producer. He started the record and he made it with Rema at first but then because I work closely with Rema. There is nothing that Rema does that doesn’t go through me at all. Rema hit me up and he was like, okay, so him and Jazzy did this song but he feels like there’s some things that are missing. Then I was like, okay, cool. I listened to the record and Jazzy had done [sings ‘Bounce’ intro] and I was like, okay, this sounds dangerous! Like, we have to make this very scary. So I linked up with Jazzy and Rema, we were in the studio together and then I started adding like some growling bass to make it very angry. Started adding some violins to make it scarier give it that spooky vibe. Yeah did a lot of things on the record. I honestly enjoyed working on the song. What I was trying to go for on that was this aggressive feel from the intro. So I just wanted to bring it out more like okay, yeah this is what we’re trying to achieve. We’re trying to make a scary dance record here. You know with Rema singing booty booty booty booty booty booty booty, like I wanted to bring out that whole like aggressiveness like booties bouncing and everything [laughs]. I wanted the beat to feel like the booty is actually in your face. [Laughs] Yeah, sorry to say that.
No that’s the vibe that I got straight away.
Like we’re not here to play. We’re here to get lit.
I think was so mad at 22, you’re already advising Don Jazzy. Legendary Don Jazzy. This is why you got your own playlist.
[Laughs] I wouldn’t say it’s advice. We both joined and made collaborative effort in creating the record, honestly.
You’re a very humble individual.
Honestly, I don’t like problems in life [laughs].
Well, with the success you’ve achieved, do you ever just sit back and relish it?
Once in a while, I just sit down and go through my playlists. I just listen to songs and I’m like, yo, this actually sounds hard. I feel like every producer has that [pause] I don’t know if it’s just me. Like, it’s so weird to say but when I’m make a record with an artist, I listen to it once or twice. When it’s out on Apple Music and everything. I feel like there’s just a certain way I now listen to it and then I’m like, okay, this is actually mad. Even with the album Rave and Roses, I’ve been listening to the album for like, a year plus. When it dropped, I was like, okay this album is actually sick, like with the whole structure, and the arrangements and everything.
When the song is out, you take the seat of the listener. You listen like a fan.
I listen to it, like I’m a fan. This is hard, like yo this is crazy. Like, producers tend to always, I don’t know if every producer does but for me – I always just see everything I do like I just did it on my laptop. So I really don’t value it that much until it’s out there and then everyone is like, yo this is crazy. Another thing I think why I’m like that is because like every producer they have some sort of musical background or they have like knowledge of music theory and whatnot. I don’t have anything like that, I literally do not know music theory. I don’t know shit about music, I only know how to make music. Like, I don’t know what c sharp is, or f minor or whatever those things are, but I’m able to just share something and know that yo, this sounds nice. Can you bring it down like this? Can you take it up like this? I feel like its a special gift honestly, where you’re just able to hear sounds in your head alone, know what that sound is and able to bring it out. Sometimes I feel like I’m less of a producer than my other peers who know how to play keyboards and guitars and all those shits. Man, I wish I could play guitar. I wish I could play the keys and these type of things. Sometimes it makes me feel like, my work isn’t good enough, but I’ll now learn to appreciate it over the long run. It’s not necessarily about knowing how to play these instruments or knowing how to do this. You have the sounds in your head, and you’re able to bring them out however way you want it to be. That’s actually rare talent right there. So I’ve just honestly started to appreciate it more at this point.
I think that’s the impostor syndrome piping up. I wonder how you felt when you saw bloody Samaritan blow up. That song went crazy.
[Laughs] I knew Bloody Samaritan was going to be crazy from the jump. When I first made the beat, I never touched the beat again. Immediately I made the beat, I sent it to Ayra. The beat was so hard that Ayra had to sit with that beat for like six months. She didn’t know what to write. It was so good that she was so confused. She called me one day, she was like London, you want to kill me you want to like frustrate me in this life [laughs]. This beat is going to kill your vibes and she’s like, you know what, don’t worry I’m gonna do something. One day, she called me to the studio and then we sat down in the studio. You know, that was the first time she actually recorded herself. She sat down in the studio, and she was recording for some time. Then I got tired because I hate recording. I hate being the recording engineer and she was like, I should just step out. I went out the studio and came back and she had already recorded half of the song to the chorus without the second verse, and it was like an empty space. I was like, what are we going to do with this empty space? Then fast forward three months later, like this whole record took us months to make. Three months later, I called Ayra randomly one day at three am. I’m like, what do you think of a saxophone after the second of verse? Then she’s like, that will actually be mad. That’s how we just filled up that space with the saxophone. Even before the saxophone everyone in the label was going crazy about the record. They were like, this is your next release and me I was just there like you know [pause} –
[Laughs] I mean, it’s a nice beat but then when it now dropped and then I saw everyone like going crazy about it, I was receiving crazy voice notes.
Did you see the dancing uncle on Tik Tok?
Guy wouldn’t know the lyrics of the song [laughs]. When I saw that shit, I was like what the fuck [laughs]. Anyways is still publicity so it’s gonna go far. It was really funny, honestly. Like he didn’t even know what he was singing [laughs].
So many videos and it’s just your song playing with some bad lip syncing.
Come on now, uncle please! You have to had learn the lyrics by now like for the amount of times you’ve used it [laughs]. Bloody Samaritan is on my top list of productions like its really sick. I love that record!
Give me three songs that you’re most proud of of producing, Bounces is third by the way.
Bounces is third ?
[Laughs] let me give you my own list. So number one, definitely Addicted. I’ve actually never made anything like Addicted before and the whole production process for me was like a challenge. It was really me pushing myself to do something different other than the regular Afrobeats. Number two is Oroma, yeah I love Oroma very much. Rema recorded Oroma in 2018 but I loved the record so much like I wished I was the one who produced it. I was like bro, we need to touch up with Oroma. Then we literally created the second half. So in Oroma there’s like the first parts and then there’s the second part. So Altims produced the first part and I produced the second part. Bloody Samaritan is number three and then we can put Bounce as number four for you [laughs].
Wow okay, shall I name you my own?
Okay tell me yours.
Oh fuck, I forgot Soundgasm.
See Soundgasm was my first one.
Ah, okay, Soundgasm is number five after Bloody Samaritan. No Bounce can go to number five and Soundgasm comes number four.
Soundgasm is number one. Bounce is two and then Fashion Killah number three.
Yes. Bounce is number two, Fashion Killer three, Afro Jigga four and fifth one?
Just put Addicted.
Hmm I’ll put Gyrate.
Thank you. I wanted to ask you about a quote that you said in a previous interview. You said, “hunger go inspire you”. So I want you to tell me, what’s the hunger that inspires you to keep producing?
When I said hunger go inspire you, it was pretty much because of the place I came from. I grew up in Kaduna, we didn’t really have much growing up honestly. My mom was single mom so it was really hard for us. So like, just being there no money, nothing to do it really pushes you. If you really want to win, like you will get tired of your current situation. You’d be like, bro, like, you have to fucking make it. So that whole situation I was in, really motivated inspired me to become who I am today or who I’m still planning to be. I don’t think I’m there yet honestly like, I’m still hungry. I still want to keep going hard. I still grind like I haven’t done anything. That’s why I’m so like [pause], I don’t know but I still look at myself like I haven’t still achieved anything yet. I appreciate everything that has been happening but I just want to do more honestly. So I always, you know, push myself to do more.
Where do you picture yourself in 10 years.
In 10 years, I’m still going to be making beats. This is going to be for life. In 10 years, I should have achieved most of the things that I planned on achieving like last year. In 10 years, man should have bagged his Grammys, like multiple Grammy Awards, multiple plaques. I’m also planning on like creating a collective for producers because I want to give back to the producer community honestly. A lot of labels actually always focus on the artist and you know, the producers are just there on their own. Literally, like still striving, still struggling and trying to get placements and everything. So working on something for producers is one of the things that I want to do. Not like a label, but just like a collective, just like a community of producers, whereby we’re just there to help you place your beats. Help you sync your songs, like just give you major, major collections and everything.
Are you not going on a festival this year?
I forgot to name it’s so weird is in Netherlands (Vunzige Deuntjes). I don’t know how to pronounce it. We have it in writing but yeah I’m supposed to be in the festival in Amsterdam. Also Rema is going on on his tour. So I’ll be with him, DJing and composing his music for the band. There are a lot of things actually I need to do this year. I’m supposed to be out in the UK very soon. You know, just doing major sessions, PR meetings, conferences, anything at all, honestly.
Okay, so busy a year for you.
Yeah. I’m also into investments like, crypto, trading and all those things. So, I mean, definitely would love to have an affiliation with a crypto company. That is one of the things we’re also trying to work on for the producers as well, where they could like sell their beats, just kind of like NFT’s. So, you know, me going out to London, LA and France is basically just like meeting up with people. Have certain meetings and just broaden my reach. Obviously, because I don’t want to keep it just music. I really want to spread it out and just be like business wise I’m also there.